WorkFirst HandBook


3.3 Individual Responsibility Plan and Stacking Activities

Legal References:

The 3.3 IRP and Stacking Activities section has two separate sub-sections: What are stacking activities?

Federal rules reduce funding to states that fail to meet a federal work participation rate. To meet the rates, states must have a percentage of parents in the required number of hours of countable activities each month.

Section 1.2.1 What is participation and how is it counted describes the participation requirements for parents and teens who are able to participate. Stacking goes beyond the basic participation requirements and gives guidance about how we might best meet the needs of parents, achieve the most important WorkFirst goals, and maximize our ability to meet the federal rate. What are Countable Core and Non-Core Activities?

All WorkFirst activities were designed for a purpose - but not all of them count towards meeting the federal rate. WorkFirst activities fall into one of five broad categories:

The Core & Non-Core Activity chart lists countable core and non-core activities.

The Stacking Activities Chart sorts WorkFirst activities by how they count towards meeting the rate, listing all exemptions, exceptions, stabilization (uncountable), and core activities. The chart gives an overall strategy for each, including the types of core and non-core activities you may stack onto the primary activity to help move the parent towards employment.

For more information about Life Skills training, please refer to section 7.3.6- What is Independent Life Skills Training? How to maximize CE Recommendations to Meet WorkFirst and Participation Goals

Comprehensive Evaluation (CE) recommendations should be designed to meet parents' needs while maximizing our ability to meet federal participation requirements. To meet WorkFirst program and participation goals: How to Build an IRP that Meets the Rate

We build an IRP based on the primary activity the parent needs to progress. Some parents will be exempt and others will be required to access stabilization services (uncountable "X" codes).

For parents who do not have Washington Apple Health due to citizenship verification requirements AND who have an activity requirement that is dependent on Washington Apple Health coverage, please refer to section 6.3.5- How do we treat parents with medical issues who do not have Washington Apple Health?

You can require a parent to apply for Washington Apple Health in his or her IRP, and sanction for failure to follow through, if they are potentially eligible but have never applied or let his or her coverage lapse.  For example, use an IRP to require WAH application for a parent who needs chemical dependency treatment but has no current WAH coverage (See WAH Application IRP for suggested IRP language.).

A few parents and teens will meet the rate while participating fewer hours under federal participation exceptions. For these parents/teens, require:

Most parents are able to participate and don't qualify for federal participation exemptions. You can stack activities to build an IRP that meets the rate as follows:

  1. Start with 20 hours per week of core activities:
    1. The parent can do more than one type of core activity to reach 20 hours per week. Just add a few hours of a "good match" core activity to the parent's primary core activity to meet the 20 hour requirement.
    2. Working the FLSA maximum hours of WEX or community service meets the full core activity requirement. [See How to Deem below].
  2. Add 12-20 hours per week of countable activities:
    1. More hours of the core activity
    2. Add a "good match" core activity
    3. Non-core activities (job skills training, basic education or high school/GED)
  3. Using this formula, the parent will end up with 32-40 hours total hours of participation each week.

Example: Jacques and Sarah are married with two children and on WorkFirst. Jacques is working 25 hours per week and Sarah has been staying at home with the children. Their WorkFirst Program Specialist looks at their CE results, talks to them and develops an IRP for each of them for full-time participation.

Jacques' employment meets his 20-hour core activity requirement and contributes 5 hours towards his 12-20 hour core/non-core activity requirement. Jacques selects his CE basic education option and agrees to attend basic education classes for 2 ½ hours a day, 3 times a week. This brings Jacques' total participation up to 32 ½ hours per week.

The CE recommends that Sarah starts off with full-time job search. Sarah agrees to go to job search for 32 hours per week, which meets her 20 hour core activity requirement and her additional 12-20 hours per week of core/non-core activities. How to Deem

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has rules that apply to parents in community service and work experience (unpaid work activities).

Under federal rules, parents who work the FLSA maximum hours meet their full core activity requirement. The FLSA maximum hours for the past, current and upcoming month is calculated and displayed in eJAS and visible to contractors. Only the upcoming month, however, will show for newly approved WorkFirst applicants and re-applicants.

When a parent is first approved for WorkFirst cash assistance, and the parent is entering a community service or work experience activity, DSHS staff can go to the work experience/community service FLSA calculator to calculate the hours for the current month and pass that information to community service and work experience providers. Print a copy of the calculation and send it to DMS so it can be stored in the parent's case record and it is available for future audits. Once the parent has been on WorkFirst for a month, eJAS will start to calculate and display the FLSA maximum hours to all partners and contractors for the current and upcoming month.

The work experience/community service FLSA calculator calculates the FLSA maximum hours based on the parent's grant and food stamp benefits, divided by the state minimum wage ($9.32 per hour). The result is the maximum FLSA hours for the month. The calculator divides the monthly maximum FLSA hours by 4.33 to determine how many hours the parent will perform unpaid work, on average, each week

For example, Dorothy will be doing Community Works, skills enhancement training and her FLSA maximum hours are 14 hours per week. Under FLSA we can only require Dorothy to do 14 hours per week of Community Works and that meets her 20-hour core activity requirement. Dorothy does an additional 12 hours per week of skills enhancement training to bring her up to 32 hours per week of countable participation.

There are special rules for deeming in two-parent families. Most important, the FLSA maximum hours apply to the entire family, not to each parent. To be classified as a two parent family under federal rules, neither parent can be:

Under WorkFirst, we want each parent to participate 32-40 hours per week if at all possible. When we maximize participation at the headquarters level, we will use federal rules to deem 30 hours of core activities if either parent works the family's FLSA maximum hours. When we do this, the whole family will meet the rate if either parent does an additional 5 hours of another type of core or non-core activity.

Some families FLSA maximum hours will exceed 20-30 hours per week so we will not be deeming additional hours. In these cases you may:


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